Policy paralysis? Privacy and false claims laws caught in the crossfire

The law, which aims to provide protection against snooping on individuals through unlawful and unauthorized interception, was first drafted during UPA regime in May 2011.

Published: 06th March 2017 08:02 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th March 2017 08:02 PM   |  A+A-

Court Hammer

For representational purpose

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: In a recent meeting Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 7 RCR, Council of Ministers was advised to talk to each other frequently on the matters held up due to prolonged inter-ministerial consultations. On the table were three important notes flagged by the Prime Minister Office (PMO). On the top was Right to Privacy law to provide protection to individuals against breach of their privacy. The PMO note accessed by the Express shows the proposed law is hanging fire since 2015 when the last discussion was held on March 19 at North block.

“The Committee of Secretaries note on Right to Privacy was returned by the Cabinet Secretariat with few observations for revision. The matter is under discussion with the Ministry of Home Affairs. In a meeting held on 19.3.2015 with the stakeholders it was decided that these organizations would send their comments on the Bill. Intelligence Agencies suggested wider consultation of draft bill with other agencies like Financial Intelligence Unit,” the PMO note said.

The law, which aims to provide protection against snooping on individuals through unlawful and unauthorized interception, was first drafted during UPA regime in May 2011. Intelligence agencies have argued for blanket exemption from the ambit of law since these agencies are neither defined nor established under any law. The draft law maintains that privacy of individual cannot be infringed except in cases related to sovereignty, integrity and security of India. This is not acceptable to agencies. 

Intelligence agencies views conveyed to PMO said: “ Establishing in each case that their action was in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country would not only be practically difficult, but also lead to a number of litigations.” 

There is also a suggestion from Ministry of Home Affairs that Law Enforcement Agencies and government’s intelligence units should be exempted from a clause in the bill, which ensures penalty for obtaining personal data on a false pretext. 

Another important policy matter that has been held up and delayed due to prolonged Inter-ministerial consultations is drafting of a law on false claims. Interestingly, this proposal was mooted on October 21, 2010 and 7 years down the line, it still doesn’t have a time line.

“The draft bill was sent to 12 ministries for their views/comments and their replies have been received. The file has been sent to legislative department, Ministry of Law & Justice on 08/09/2015 for obtaining their views/comments. Legislative department has returned the file on 10.2.2016 for examination and formulation on all aspects of the draft bill vis-à-vis comments of various ministries, which is under consideration of DoPT,” the PMO note said. 

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